How to Become a
FULL STACK ENGINEER
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How to Become a Full Stack Engineer: Skills, Requirements, and Career Guide

Reviewed By Engineering Expert and Coach
Bill Coloe
on
February 25, 2024

Full stack engineering has become one of the most in-demand and rewarding careers in the technology industry. As a full stack engineer, you'll have the ability to work on both the front end and back end of web applications, ensuring that they function smoothly and efficiently. With the growing reliance on digital technology, the demand for skilled full stack engineers has increased substantially.

If you're interested in pursuing a career in full stack engineering, this guide will provide you with an overview of the skills and requirements necessary for success in the field, as well as the career paths available to full stack engineers. Whether you're just starting out or looking to transition into full stack engineering, this guide will help you understand what it takes to be successful.

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What is a Full Stack Engineer?

Also commonly known as a full stack developer, full stack engineers work in various coding languages to manage both the front and back ends of websites and applications.

The term and title of “full stack” showcases the developer's capability to manage the company's FULL tech stack, which requires extensive knowledge of several specialized languages and tools. Because of this, full stack engineering is not normally an entry-level job. There isn't really a "common" path to becoming a full stack engineer. Most engineers start with either the front or back end, and advance into learning the other.

Full stack engineers are usually flexed into roles spanning the entire development process of an application, from the client-side (front end) to the server-side (back end) and the database. They are able to effortlessly switch between environments of an application and have knowledge of how all the different pieces of the application fit together.

Responsibilities of a Full Stack Engineer

What does a Full Stack Engineer do?

At the very basic level, back end engineers are responsible for maintaining product data and ensuring scalability for a website or application.

At companies of all sizes, back end engineers will often work in a pod structure led by a product manager to decide what order to prioritize development tasks. It’s the product managers’ role to decide prioritization of development work based on a function of importance, function and visibility.

An engineer is usually responsible for completing a certain number of tasks– often referred to as “tickets” or “user stories” within a set timeframe (often referred to as a “sprint”).

Difference between Front End, Back End, and Full Stack Engineers

Front end engineers differ from back end engineers in that front end only focuses on parts of the site actively seen by users (front meaning “visible” in this instance).

The term and title of “Full Stack” engineer showcases the ability to work on either the front or back end of the product (hence, full stack engineers are capable of managing the company’s FULL tech stack).

Education Requirements

Do I need a degree to be a Full Stack Engineer?

Contrary to popular belief, you do NOT need a CS or otherwise technical degree to be any sort of engineer. In fact, no degree is required for an associate/entry level engineering position. Hiring managers focus primarily on previous things built-- in this case, applications built or APIs written, which is usually on display in a portfolio like GitHub. Job applications will often require a link space for a GitHub for a recruiter to review. Engineers can be self-taught, as long as they have a decent number of projects featured and can pass a coding interview. Job descriptions will often mention a requirement of something STEM related, but more often than not these roles are filled by bootcamp graduates or those with impressive portfolios.

HOWEVER, if you're looking to enter tech in a coding field, we recommend checking out front end engineering instead. It is simpler to learn, easier to show off, and usually more intuitive for beginners.

We've seen these people become incredibly successful full stack engineers:

  • Any sort of college STEM background like mathematics, statistics, or computer science
  • Data entry and receptionist professionals
  • Accounting and budgeting roles
  • Truck drivers (truly!)

If you're new here to bridged, we're glad to meet you! We are huge fans of alternate forms of education, and recommend specific certifications to target skills.

Our Favorite Full Stack Engineering Programs and Certifications

Engineering certifications and bootcamps are a dime a dozen, because it's an alternative form of education. Many of the reviewer sites recommending programs get significant kickbacks for the $3,000+ certifications they're reviewing, and while we respect their hustle and also love money-- that's a little shady.

Our criteria for these programs were that they cost under $300 for completion. Some dev programs come with a job guarantee after placement, which is pretty neat, but also can be expensive down the line with income sharing. For developers, the absolute best thing you can have is a snazzy portfolio of impressive projects. This can absolutely be self-taught if you're motivated enough.

Full Stack engineering is a tricky one because it requires front and back end understanding. Back end certifications are harder to find, but we found the Meta program to be extremely helpful due to the portfolio support it provided. We also included our favorite Udemy course (udemy is great because it's affordable) and Duke certification. Good luck!


udemy logo

Complete Web Developer Bootcamp

This course is one of Udemy's most popular, and has had almost 800 thousand students. Learn the fundamentals of coding for building responsive websites, and finish with a completed application as a portfolio project (huge plus!).

At the price point of $24, we highly recommend this course to see if developing websites is for you!

Learn more

Meta Logo

Back End Developer Professional Program

Meta sponsors this Python-forward course that specializes in using code to solve complex problems.

While usually we're skeptical of programs taught by companies (instead of universities or specialists), we loved that you'll end the program with a portfolio-ready web application (most important) and sharable certificate for your resume.

Learn more

duke university logo

Java Programming and Software Engineering Fundamentals

Duke was one of the only universities that had a program that touched on back end engineering. Duke is a premium university, and the certificate from completion will shine on resumes.

Luckily, all of these programs are hosted on Coursera so you can audit if needed. We recommend seeing which program resonates most with you before committing and paying the monthly fee.

Learn More

Salary and Career Potential

Entry-Level Full Stack Engineer Salary

Engineers are some of the highest paid roles in the tech community. A high-level senior full stack engineer can make an upwards of $500k+ at a bit tech company. We've aggregated thousands of salaries across glassdoor and linkedin, and entry-level full stack engineers can make anywhere between 95k - 105k, depending on their location and skillsets.

Career Path of a Full Stack Engineer

Front end engineers have tons of options-- they can go on to be full stack engineers, managers, or even product managers. So while this path is common, the #1 thing to keep in mind is this is a great path to get your foot in the door at a tech company.

  • Front End Engineer, or Jr Front End Engineer: Spend about 2-4 years at either level here.
  • Senior Front End Engineer / Full Stack Engineer: Spend about 3-5 years here.
  • Engineering Manager / Senior Full Stack Engineer: Spend about 5-10 years here.
  • Senior Engineering Manager / Senior Product Manager: This one is tricky, and there are lots of options, but most folks spend roughly 4-6 years here.

Job Requirements and Skills

Popular Job Description of a Full Stack Engineer

We've used AI to aggregate the top job descriptions used by hiring managers looking for full stack engineers. When putting your resume together, try to mimic these listings. To learn more about this process, check out our partner Jobscan for a comprehensive resume review.

  • Design, develop, and implement web applications using a variety of languages, frameworks, and tools.
  • Collaborate with cross-functional teams to ensure the applications meet business requirements and user needs.
  • Write clean, efficient, and well-documented code that adheres to industry best practices and standards.
  • Conduct code reviews and provide constructive feedback to other developers.
  • Troubleshoot and debug complex issues that arise during the development process.
  • Maintain and update existing applications to ensure they remain secure, scalable, and performant.
  • Participate in the testing, deployment, and maintenance of applications.
  • Stay up-to-date with emerging trends and technologies in full stack development.

Top Skills of a Full Stack Engineer

We've compiled thousands of job descriptions for full stack engineers to record the most common requirements to save you time. These vary, and are a mix of both front and back end skills. Again, showing is better than telling in this case, and a GitHub link will say wonders more than a resume.

  • Experience with modern front end frameworks such as React, Angular, or Vue.
  • Strong understanding of web development principles, including HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and responsive design.
  • Experience with cross-browser compatibility issues and ways to work around them.
  • Design and develop the server-side of web applications using programming languages such as Java, Python, Ruby, or PHP.
  • Implement and maintain APIs that allow the front-end of the application to interact with the back-end.
  • Create and maintain databases, and design and implement data models.
  • Optimize web application performance and scalability.

Top Tools of a Full Stack Engineer

We've also compiled the most common tools listed in job description. If you're serious about becoming an full stack engineer, get familiar with these and be ready to talk about them.

Front End Programming Languages & Frameworks

  • HTML
  • Javascript
  • CSS
  • NextJS
  • React
  • Gatsby
  • Vue
  • Angular

Back End Programming Frameworks

  • Python
  • Ruby
  • JavaScript
  • Java
  • C#
  • PHP
  • ruby on rails
  • spring
  • dijango

Development Communication & Documentation

  • Jira
  • Confluence
  • Trello

Bug Tracking

  • Jira
  • Bugzilla
  • ASANA
  • Notion
  • DataDog

Key Traits of a Successful Full Stack Engineer

Problem Solving - A successful full stack engineer needs to have strong problem-solving skills to identify issues with the software being developed and find effective solutions. They should be able to think creatively and approach problems from different angles to ensure the highest quality of the product. This involves not only identifying problems but also being able to break them down into manageable pieces and come up with solutions that are efficient, maintainable, and scalable.
Research - full stack engineers will often need to conduct research to determine the best solutions to product problems. They may need to complete things called "spikes" to explore different approaches to solving problems. This requires a strong understanding of web technologies, tools, and frameworks, as well as a willingness to experiment with different approaches to find the best solution.
Programming - full stack engineers need to understand various coding languages and frameworks to complete their work. They should have a solid foundation in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, as well as experience working with front end frameworks such as React, Angular, or Vue. They should also be familiar with version control systems such as Git, and be able to write clean, efficient, and well-documented code.
Attention to Detail - full stack engineers need to be able to consume designs and translate them into applications and features. This requires a keen eye for detail, as even the smallest mistake can impact the user experience. They should be able to ensure that the design is implemented accurately, and that the final product is visually appealing, intuitive to use, and meets the needs of the client.
Patience - Coding can sometimes be incredibly frustrating, and patience is an extremely undervalued competency. full stack engineers may encounter bugs, unexpected errors, and challenges that require them to go back to the drawing board. They should be able to stay calm under pressure, take a step back, and find a solution that works. This also involves being able to collaborate effectively with other members of the team, including designers, product managers, and other engineers, and to be open to feedback and suggestions for improvement.

Bridged Recommendations

Hey, it's Billy! If you're feeling intimidated by the technical aspects of a career in software development, don't worry. I've worked with many successful developers who don't have a traditional background in the field. What's surprising is that soft abilities are highly valued in this industry.

While programming abilities can be learned through experience, it's much more difficult to teach people how to communicate effectively with stakeholders and coworkers. In my view, problem-solving and the ability to convey technical concepts in simple terms are the most essential qualities for success in this field. If you have these attributes, you'll likely excel in a career in software development.

Get Started with a Bridged Recommendation

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Conclusion

Full stack engineering is a great career path for those fulfilled by building new things that people will actually use. We love recommending any software engineering role, but often encourage our users to self-teach and practice building sites for real experience instead of joining an expensive bootcamp.

Here at Bridged we are huge fans of stacking micro-certifications to achieve desired career results. We're building a product to make your career planning fun and affordable, and we'd love to talk to YOU! Was this article helpful? Did you land an interview for a full stack engineering role?

Let us know at hello@getbridged.co

Check out our sources!

Glassdoor Team. “Salary: Full Stack Engineer (March, 2023) | Glassdoor.” Glassdoor, Glassdoor, 1 Feb. 2023, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/product-analyst-salary-SRCH_KO0,15.html

WRITTEN BY
Bill Coloe
Bridged co-founder Billy is the resident engineering brainpower behind our site and application. He enjoys long walks on the beach.

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BRIDGED AT A GLANCE

explore careers

Find information on career paths for high-paying roles that align with your strengths and goals. Try our easy quiz to help you get started.

Help Me Pick
target skill gaps

View the skills you need to learn and develop with our state-of-the-art gap identifier. This is your next stop once you've found a role!

Get Tracking
review certifications

Learn about affordable and reputable certifications that won't break your bank. No expensive bootcamps or schooling required.

Review Certs
identify dream roles

We've vetted jobs at top companies that need talent! Easily match with companies that work with your job preferences.

Explore Roles

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